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Agee, James Rufus (27 November 1909–16 May 1955), writer, was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, the son of Hugh James Agee, a construction company employee, and Laura Whitman Tyler. The father’s family were poorly educated mountain farmers, while the mother’s were solidly middle class. Agee was profoundly affected by his father’s death in a car accident in 1916. He idealized his absent father and struggled against his mother and her genteel and (he felt) cold values. “Agee’s mother wanted him to be clean, chaste, and sober,” the photographer ...

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Sturges, Preston (29 August 1898–06 August 1959), director, playwright, and screenwriter, was born Edmund Preston Biden in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Edmund C. Biden, a bill collector, and Mary Dempsey, an aspiring musician. His parents soon separated; his mother took him to Paris, where she became close friends with ...

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Weber, Lois (13 June 1879–13 November 1939), silent film director, screenwriter, and performer, was born Florence Lois Weber in Allegheny (now part of Pittsburgh), Pennsylvania, to George Weber, an upholsterer and decorator, and Mary Matilda Snaman. Weber displayed early musical prowess and, at age sixteen, toured briefly as a concert pianist. Her parents were devout Christians, and the influence of the church was a constant throughout Weber’s life. She spent two years with the Church Army, a Salvation Army–style missionary group, evangelizing on street corners and singing in rescue missions. She credited the advice of an uncle with her decision to enter the theater, a venue that allowed her to proselytize as well as perform....